Do you have a Facebook friend who regularly posts in a language you don’t know well, if at all? A lot of people do, given the global nature of social media. But how do you, or would you, deal with this? Chances are, it’s not a convenient way. Facebook needs a way to make this more convenient and here are a few suggestions.
In Google Chrome, when you visit a page mostly or totally in a language other than your default one, it often recognizes it and prompts you to get it translated into your default language (with options for other languages). I’m sure other browsers does this to some level as well, but I haven’t done a survey.
What Chrome doesn’t do is prompt you if there a minority part of a web page is in a language other than your default one. Rightly so, it could get really annoying if you got prompted every time, like every time you’re in Facebook and see a post by a Facebook friend in another language, or several in several languages. Deciding which to prompt first in the latter case could be trouble on its own, to show preference for one language (symbolized by culture) over another. Even picking language preference “objectively” in alphabetical order, or by survey number of people who use it can be a problem. And making you pick it isn’t going to work because if many people can’t be bothered to set their privacy settings which carries a lot more stake than language priorities, few would ever care to do it.
What Facebook needs is a detection mechanism like Google Chrome has for foreign language snippets, and offer a translate link.
Given each post and comment and such is an item on its own in Facebook, with ability to comment, Like or other features, it can obviously isolate out each snippet to check for presence of a language other than your default. On these snippets, attach a quick and easy “Translate” link, in your default language, of course. Whether that takes you directly to Google Translate, already built so convenience is there for Facebook (even if Facebook and Google aren’t the best of friends), or its own translating service which it would have to build to some extent, it doesn’t matter. Make it available and convenient.
Then, when you click on that link, the snippet of text would come with you to a new tab or window, the default translation would be to your default language, with option for others. I say new tab or window because I think that would be easier for the Facebook programmers to do rather than change it right in the post or comment made in another language, though I certainly don’t put it beyond their capabilities.
It would be better if the snippet of language not familiar to you got translated right where it was, but either would be fine as long as the response translation feature was also attached. That way, you could reply in your language, get it translated to the original language, and just click or hit Enter to get it posted. You would want it in the original language because chances are, others for whom it was meant would be familiar with that language, and you wouldn’t be forcing your language on your friend and his/her friends.
Without this current feature, if you understand or take the time to translate the snippet in a language not familiar to you, chances are, you might be doing just that. It’s neither culturally sensitive nor respectful, I’ve got to admit.
Now, I wonder if anyone at Facebook looking for a pet project might be willing to take this on? It’s not that little a pet project, to be honest, but I think it’d be a practical feature for Facebook to have. It’s a project for the 21st century for sure, in more ways than just technically.